Our Team

Program Staff

Matthew Villarreal, Assistant Dean for Art and Design Education

Beginning in Fall 2021, the Parsons Scholars Program welcomed incoming director Matthew Villarreal. Matthew is an artist, community advocate, and educator from El Paso, TX with over 15 years of experience working with BIPOC youth and first-generation college students. Before joining Parsons as an AICAD Teaching Fellow and Assistant Professor in 2019, Matthew worked as a high school teacher and college-access administrator in various Title I schools. His creative practice blends pedagogy, artmaking, and activism with the aim of building space for whole communities to deepen community confidence and creative capacity via workshops, exhibitions, and exchanges. He is a recipient of 2020 El Paso MCAD Artist Incubator Grant, and has contributed notable works to 45Library.com, New American Talent 21, and others. 

Sean Slaughter, Program Administrator

Sean Christian Slaughter, is an arts advocate, and graphic designer from Brooklyn NY. He holds a BFA from Otis College of Art & Design. Sean’s commitment to arts education, and community practice has led him to facilitate creative workshops in juvenile detention centers throughout Los Angeles to orphanages in Malawi, East Africa.  Sean has created multiple initiatives for cultural institutions such as The Getty Museum, Parsons School of Design, Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles City College, and the AICAD symposium 2020 centered around visualizing equity and justice through arts education. The pillars of his design philosophy are—art, education, and social re-imagination. He uses his work to examine and open dialogue about his community’s history, culture, and its social needs. As a professional artist, Sean has become a national poetry-slam champion of Brave New Voices International Poetry Festival, featured on HBO Brave New Voices 2010, MTV, & Time Warner Cable. 

Juliet Gomez, Associate Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and College Access

Juliet Gomez has recently joined the Parsons Scholars Program as their College Access Coordinator. Juliet is a native New Yorker who was educated in the public school system,  graduated from CUNY Brooklyn College after majoring in film production, and then attended NYU Gallatin where she studied educational theater and social work. Her master's thesis "Do You Fools Listen to Music or Just Skim Through It?: Locating Trauma Through Hip-Hop" examined the interconnectedness of trauma, hip-hop and hip-hop as a tool for healing in the hip-hop community.

She's been working in education for 16 years, and has been working in college access full time for the last 5. Juliet believes education is a social justice issue and is dedicated to helping young people design the most meaningful post-secondary pathways for themselves and their families.

Senior Advocates

Kevin Cadena, Youth Advocate

Kevin Cadena is a Colombian-American designer, creative technologist, community organizer and artist who is currently based in Queens, NY. Kevin intersects these mediums together in different ways to critique, enforce or speculate on culture, conventions, and ethics in his environment.

Born in New York and raised in Orlando, Florida, Kevin graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in graphic design. During his time in college, he was involved in planning conferences, workshops, and events around Providence.Since graduating, he has worked with many different organizations ranging from research labs and design agencies to museums and co-working spaces. In his free time, he enjoys supporting local music, playing video games, and reading about politics and culture.

Elizabeth Peralta, Youth Advocate

Native New Yorker, Elizabeth Marina Peralta was born in 1994. They were born to Puerto Rican and Dominican parents. She is an interdisciplinary artist working at the intersection of identity, queerness, fashion, music, movement, performance, and caribbean themes. They use a wide range of skills to craft experiences for the viewer or audience. In 2017, she received a BFA from Parsons School of Design. Through her work she explores her caribbean heritage through color, texture, language, and symbolism. They aim to explore Afrotaíno futures and alternative realities. 

Junior Advocates

Nelson De Jesus Ubri, Youth Advocate

Nelson De Jesus Ubri is a first-generation Dominican-American residing in the Bronx, NY. He received a BFA in Architectural Design from Parsons The New School for Design and is now pursuing a Master of Architecture at Columbia University’s GSAPP. A multidisciplinary designer, he has been developing Upstream-Downstream. It is a research project that analyzes the Dominican Republic's infrastructure and architecture as a case study to better understand a country's vulnerabilities in the North Atlantic Hurricane Basin. He was awarded a Fulbright to further his research in 2017. Nelson is also an instructor at Dimension Learning, a non-profit organization that provides STEM programs to NYC students. He teaches middle school students about 3D printing and Computer-Aided Design (CAD).

As a program alumnus himself, Nelson is eager to work with the newer generations of Parsons Scholars to assist and guide them with their higher education goals and exploration of art and design.

Havanna Fisher, Youth Advocate

Havanna is a budding interdisciplinary artist from Harlem who works across the fields of design, performing arts and film. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design from Parsons and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in dance from Eugene Lang. She has a profound interest in using the skills and techniques that she has acquired to combine the arts with education to bring about political awareness and thus probable change within the American landscape of ideological identity.

Sophomore Advocates

Deja Holden, Youth Advocate

Deja Holden is a systems thinker interested in the ways people connect with each other and form community. She received her BFA from Parsons School of Design in Communication Design and her BA from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in Political Science. She is originally from the Bronx and is super excited to support the Scholars in whatever paths they choose to take.

Sophia Mak, Youth Advocate

Sophia Mak is a queer, gender non conforming, chinese-american maker and performer, currently based in Brooklyn, NY. Sophia received their BA in studio art and cultural anthropology from Bard College and their MA from NYU's Dept. of Art & Public Policy (Tisch). Sophia uses performance as a method for decolonization and research to explore east asian trans-masculinities, intergenerational trauma, and ancestral connection through the racial metaphor of the banana. An alumni of The Hemispheric Institute’s EMERGENYC, Sophia continues their life investigations as an artist, youth worker, first-gen child of immigrants, dedicated friend and sibling.